Luke 4:38-41

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.

As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.

Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. Luke 4:38-41

The currently raging coronavirus pandemic puts today’s reading in a new light. Just last week we had a funeral for another victim of Covid 19. It was livecast on the internet. The only people in the sanctuary were seven members of her immediate family. All in masks. No touching allowed. A story that has been repeated, as of today, over 354,000 times. The people who continue to argue that this is “no big deal” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The gospels tell us little about the family lives of those who followed Jesus. Obviously, Simon was married as today we read about his mother-in-law, but this is a rare mention. For all the talk about the Bible as the source of “Christian family values”, very little is said about anybody’s marriage or family. But this story does tell us a bit about how Christian values reflect what Jesus values.

When he finds someone sick – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – he wants them to be better. He rebukes the fever, and she is restored. Jesus values health and wholeness.

The word soon gets out that Jesus can help sick people. Soon the crowd gathers, like a celebrity signing autographs, and Jesus lays his hands on them, and cures them. Again, only the demons fully appreciate what is happening. Jesus values people.

When the mother-in-law is restored, she serves a meal. That’s another Christian value: Our response to God’s love in our lives is to serve others.

I can’t imagine the pain someone who has lost a loved one to Covid 19 would feel in reading this story. Why wasn’t MY mother saved? Even reading about Jesus touching someone in their healing is hard to hear when people aren’t able to visit, or to be visited, in the hospital. Video chats and phone calls have their place but nothing replaces holding hands or hugs.

And it seems to quick and easy! One word. One touch. And people get better.

I get that. Such emotional responses are inevitable. Two of our four children have gotten sick with Covid 19. In both cases, they were better in a week or two. Kelley and I felt the fear that came with the positive test. The worry and then, for us, the relief. We felt helpless.

The truth is, health and wholeness are fragile. When we get sick, we feel vulnerable, like our bodies have betrayed us. The best response is not either/or but both/and. It isn’t either Jesus heals us or Jesus is a figment of our imaginations. It is both, we know in our heart of hearts that Jesus values wellness and wholeness and we know that not everyone or everything gets better. That is the mystery of life.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we read about how you healed people and our prayers today go out to all who are sick and suffering, all pleading for your help. We pray for health care workers, that they find meaning and purpose in their work, and encouragement and rest when they feel overwhelmed. We pray for diligence in providing vaccines to as many people as possible. Give us hope, determination, and persistence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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